By Graham Thomas
Mike van der Hoorn insists Swansea City’s fighting spirit will be enough to keep them in the Premier League.
The Dutchman known at the Liberty Stadium as “Iron Mike” is renowned for his physicality and bruising tackles – an untypical trait among his countrymen more generally regarded for slide-rule passing than slide-tackles.
But the raw-boned van der Hoorn has been a key component in Carlos Carvalhal’s team this season, usually playing as a central defender in a five-man defence.
The 25-year-old brings an abrasiveness to the team that is sometimes lacking elsewhere on the field, but which he believes the Swans can muster on Saturday as they visit Bournemouth in a vital fixture.
“I think we will stay up,” says van der Hoorn. “If we are aggressive, then I think we will get the points and stay up. We are strong players and we believe.
“If we could win at Bournemouth, it would be a big win. We look more aggressive at home, so we need to find a way to be aggressive and go for it away, too. We will have to defend well, but we must go for the win.
“Bournemouth are a strong side with good players, especially good at home. It’s a small stadium and the crowd get behind them. We are nervous, but we are really looking forward to it.”
The Swans are just one point above the relegation zone, but with only three games left their fate is very much still in their own hands.
Van der Hoorn, however, believes the players have to forget any temptation to rely on their final two home matches – against Southampton and Stoke next week – and win at Bournemouth, where they have a poor record.
“I think the main mood is one of concentrating on the game ahead and not trying to look back too much. We have three games left and they are all winnable.
“Our away form hasn’t been that great. But we have also had some tough away games – even the West Brom match was tough because they had just changed their manager.
“It was a tough run, but the Everton match was a game we should have won.”
Van der Hoorn believes it will be character rather than ability that will determine which clubs eventually succumb to relegation.
Those mental qualities are evident in the dressing room, he says, where Ghanaian brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew are playing a significant role.
“It’s more about mental strength, although quality is important. But the quality guy who isn’t able to perform over these last three matches is not much use.
“There are guys here who have it. The Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre, inspire us. Also, Angel Rangel, Leon Britton and Federico Fernandez. There are lots of guys.
“I am not big shouter, unless it’s needed. I was never a big shouter. I prefer to feel it inside and show it on the pitch.
“But last season was similar. We had to win the last three out of four and we did a job there. It’s about keeping positive and working hard.
“When I was at Ajax and Utrecht, the clubs were always at the top end of the table. The pressure is very different at the bottom because of relegation.”
Van der Hoorn concedes that at some clubs relegation is treated as an occupational hazard by players who quickly look to their own interests and the next move elsewhere.
But he is clear, “Our team is not like that. We discuss the relegation battle every hour of every day. It really matters.
We work out what we might need and where we have to pick up points. It’s always in our heads. But it is our hands, too.”